Make that six different winners in six rounds for the Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series, which has to be an all-time record. That’s unofficial, but we don’t need to look it up because there’s no way the 13-round series has ever gone six races deep without a repeat winner, because this is just craziness.
The list of winners runs the full gamut, from usual contenders like Ben Kelley and Stu Baylor, to new winners like Craig Delong, veterans like Ricky Russell and Grant Baylor, and now a first-time winner in XC1 rookie Jonathan Girroir. Interestingly, defending GNCC National Champion Jordan Ashburn hasn’t won a race yet this year, but he led over the weekend in Indiana before running into mechanical problems. So, there’s a great chance of a seventh winner this season if the champ can make it happen.
Kelley, the 2021 GNCC Champion, narrowly leads the GNCC points over DeLong and Stu Baylor. They’re just six points apart as the series nears halfway.
Here’s the recap of Sunday’s Hoosier GNCC, courtesy of a GNCC Racing press release and Girroir’s FMF KTM factory off-road team.
CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind. – The Grand National Cross Country Series presented by Specialized, an AMA National Championship (GNCC Racing) saw completely different conditions on day two of the AMSOIL Hoosier event. The rain fell overnight causing muddy, slick conditions on Sunday morning, but as the sun came out throughout the afternoon hours the mud was becoming tacky for the afternoon racers.
When the XC1 Open Pro class took off it was Magna1 Motorsports/Husqvarna’s Jordan Ashburn earning the $250 All Balls Racing XC1 Holeshot Award. The battles were on throughout the duration of the race. Rocky Mountain ATVMC/Tely Energy KTM’s Steward Baylor would hold the early lead, but Ashburn would take over the lead on lap three and hold it for the next couple of laps. Unfortunately, a mechanical issue would take him out of the running on the fourth lap.
Baylor would once again take over the lead, but he would have company from both FMF/KTM Factory Racing riders, Ben Kelley and Jonathan Girroir. As the two-lap card came out it would be Girroir leading the way with Baylor and Kelley running second and third. Girroir would continue to push throughout the last lap and come through to earn his first-ever overall XC1 Open Pro win, making him the sixth different winner in six races.
“It feels incredible!” said Girroir in a KTM press release. “I’ve had an uphill battle through the whole year with taking hit after hit, so this feels well overdue and I’m just so happy. The lines here were changing every lap, I got stuck a couple of times, but yeah just changed up my lines every lap and I’m so happy to come away with this win on such a gnarly day of racing. Thank you to my whole FMF KTM factory racing team!”
Baylor would come through to earn second overall on the day, while Kelley would hold on for third in the XC1 class and fifth overall as Witkowski and Draper of the XC2 class would finish third and fourth overall on the day.
“Not a whole lot to say of today,” said Kelley. “Rode well at times, rode like a rookie at times, made a few mistakes after grabbing a great start, but yeah, just a few too many mistakes today. Taking the positives from round six, happy to be on the box and appreciate all the work the FMF KTM Factory Racing Team put in.”
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Craig Delong would battle back-and-forth throughout the day to earn fourth in the XC1 class. DeLong would start back in fifth on the first lap and fall as far back as sixth for the next couple of laps. As the race wore on, DeLong continued to push forward to make his way up to fourth for the final three laps.
Earning fifth in XC1 at the sixth round was Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki Team Green’s Josh Strang. Strang would have his work cut out for him as he started back in seventh for the first half of the race. Strang would make his way to fifth on the sixth lap of the race and remain there for the remainder of the day.
After a great start to the day, AmPro Yamaha’s Ricky Russell found himself up in third and second for the first couple of laps. Unfortunately, right after the halfway point of the race Russell would fall back to sixth and remain there until the checkered flag flew.
Ashburn would suffer a mechanical issue after running at the front of the pack, and ultimately be scored seventh in the XC1 class, as Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki Team Green’s Grant Baylor was able to earn eighth in the XC1 class after only being able to battle for two laps in Indiana.
As the XC2 250 Pro line took off it was Liqui Moly Beta Factory Racing’s Jonathan Johnson grabbing the $250 XC2 Steel City Men’s Clinic Holeshot Award. It wouldn’t take long for Phoenix Racing Honda’s Michael Witkowski and AmPro Yamaha’s Liam Draper to get to the front of the pack and battle for that lead position. Witkowski would hold that number one spot on the opening lap, but Draper would soon make the pass for the lead and hold it for the majority of the race.
However, on the last lap of the race Witkowski would maneuver around Draper when a lapped rider was unable to get out of their way. Witkowski would cross the line .953 seconds ahead of Draper to earn his first XC2 win of the season. Draper would earn second on the day in Indiana. Phoenix Racing Honda’s Cody Barnes would round out the top three XC2 finishers as he made his way into third at the halfway point.
In the FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am it was FXR/X Brand Goggles/6D Helmet’s Dakoda Devore leading the majority of the race and crossing the finish line first to earn his first XC3 win of the season. Liqui Moly Beta Factory Racing’s Jason Lipscomb would battle with Devore for some part of the race, even holding the lead on the second lap of the day. However, Lipscomb would be unable to make another run for the lead as he came through three minutes behind Devore to earn second.
After a good start to the day by earning the $100 Lojak Cycle Sale’s XC3 Holeshot Award, Beaver Creek Cycles/Bells Electric/Wossner Piston’s Toby Cleveland would find himself having to make a long pit stop to work on the bike and battle back from ninth place on the opening lap. Cleveland would put his head down and push, making his way into third by the time the white flag was flying. Unfortunately, Cleveland would be unable to make a push for the front, but with a consistent finish, he continues to hold the lead in the points.
The Top Amateur honors went to Nicholas Defeo who finished 16th overall on the day, while Joseph Cunningham came through 17th overall. Bolton Beroth rounded out the Top Amateur podium with a 19th overall finish on the day.
As the WXC line took off it was Trail Jesters KTM Racing’s Korie Steede coming away with the $100 Trail Jesters WXC Holeshot Award to start the day. However, it would not take long for AmPro Yamaha’s Rachael Archer to make the pass for the lead on the opening lap. Archer would put her head down and focus to place a gap over the rest of the field as she crossed the finish line with a six minute lead in the muddy conditions.
After grabbing the holeshot, Steede would find herself battling with GASGAS/Over and Out/RG Factory Racing’s Rachel Gutish for the first couple laps of the race. As the two-lap board came out, Steede would make her way into second and continue to battle on through the conditions for that second place position. Gutish would try to hold onto the third but would face a mechanical that would make her unable to cross the finish line for the fourth and final lap. V3 CDR/Garrison Tree Service/Focus X/Enduro Engineering’s Kayla O’Neill would capitalize as she ran fourth for the majority of the race, coming through unaware that she had earned her first-ever WXC podium finish with third on the day.
Earning the Youth Overall win at the Hoosier was YXC2 Super Mini Jr. competitor, Caleb Wood. This was Wood’s first youth overall win, and his fourth YXC2 class win of the season. Canyon Richards would come through to earn second overall, and first in the YXC1 Super Mini Sr. class. Richards has earned three wins in the YXC1 class after six rounds of racing. Austin Tsakanikas came through to earn third overall in the youth race, and second in the YXC1 class.
Round 6 of 12
Sunday, May 7, 2023